Saturday 19 October 2019

A latecomer to rugby, the Cork flyer is on the rise in Reds' ranks

Friday Focus: Shane Daly

A versatility that allows him to slot in anywhere in the backline has caught the eye of Munster coach Johann van Graan, writes Daragh Small

Shane Daly is tackled by team-mate Liam Coombes during a squad training session
Shane Daly is tackled by team-mate Liam Coombes during a squad training session

Munster winger Shane Daly came into the senior team with a strong reputation and when he made it three tries in two weeks with a wonderful effort against Dragons, he announced himself on the PRO14 stage.

The 22-year-old Corkonian played six times for the province last season, but by committing himself professionally now for two years, he has shown his intentions to make it big in the game.

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In action at Thomond Park against Dragons. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
In action at Thomond Park against Dragons. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Daly was a key part in Ireland's brilliant Sevens team that created waves in the past couple of years, but now he's keen to remain focused on his efforts with Munster in the 15s game.

And Daly was crowned man of the match in the bonus point win over Dragons to begin this season on the best possible note at Thomond Park, while he backed it up with a second award as Munster got the better of Kings in South Africa last weekend.

His first round try was quite brilliant. He collected the ball from scrum-half Nick McCarthy and with no space to work in down the left wing, Daly dinked a kick over the Dragons defence and used his speed and agility to get to the ball and dot down his second competitive try for Munster.

"That was excellent that exact kick and score he trained during the week and that's nice to see, but also the mindset to go for it and that he executed it," said Munster head coach Johann van Graan.

"He's very good player, he's got a long way to go in terms of his development but it is very nice to give him an opportunity to start and make use of those opportunities."

Daly is a Douglas native but he played Gaelic football with Bishopstown and soccer for College Corinthians.

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He never looked into rugby seriously until he attended Presentation Brothers College, and even then it wasn't until his Munster Senior Cup years that Daly really became interested.

He was injured during his Munster Junior Cup year and the years that followed resulted in two Munster Senior Cup semi-final defeats. During this period he made the transition from the No 12 to 13 jerseys. Now he is at home on the wing.

When Daly left school he had to make the difficult decision to join the ranks of Cork Con rather than his father's previous club, Highfield. Daly had also represented Highfield at underage level.

But the club to the west of Cork City were competing in Division 2B of the All-Ireland League, so Daly chose to hone his skills at one of the highest achieving clubs in Ireland.

It was a swift rise as he joined Munster sub-academy in 2015, having helped the U-20s to inter-provincial glory that year.

Outstanding

He came of age in 2016 when he was part of Ireland's outstanding U-20 team that made it all the way to the World Rugby U-20 Championships final, only to be beaten by hosts England at the AJ Bell Stadium.

But it was a taste of the big time and despite the defeat, Daly took his chance and scored when the opportunity presented itself shortly after the half-time break in the 45-21 defeat.

In late June of 2016, Daly was drafted into the full Munster academy alongside fellow Ireland U-20 stars Sean O'Connor and Vincent O'Brien.

But he was desperate to continue his development as soon as possible and he used the Ireland Sevens scene to broaden his skillset. Ireland started from bottom and are now a major player in that code with Daly being central to much of the progression.

He went on to make his Munster debut against Cheetahs in Thomond Park in September of last year. It wasn't to be in 2018-19, but it gave him a foundation on which he could build.

With the internationals such as Keith Earls and Andrew Conway missing from the back-three, there is a chance for someone to breakthrough. Daly hopes it's him.

"I did a lot of pre-season at full-back. I have been playing a lot of rugby on the wing and then at 13," said Daly.

"I have been moving around a fair bit which is good. It gives you that ability to cover the backline if you are needed as a replacement.

"But it is not what my focus is. I would like to nail down one position and be able to cover the positions if I have to.

"I am still trying to figure out what my best position is, but as long as I am on the field, I am happy. Like anyone I want to break into the team.

"Even when the internationals come back I am trying to secure a position. There is a lot of opportunity now. I am looking to put my best foot forward every time I get an opportunity.

"To get an opportunity when the internationals come back is my goal. As opposed to trying to get into the team every week.

"I want to have nailed down a starting position somewhere."

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